Supreme Court Rules Drug-Sniffing Dog Searches are Unconstitutional

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that police must first obtain a search warrant before bringing drug-sniffing police dogs onto a suspect’s property to look for evidence, the Associated Press reports.

The decision may limit how investigators use search dogs to look for drugs, explosives and other hidden items, the article notes.

The court voted 5-4 to uphold a Florida Supreme Court ruling that threw out evidence seized based on an alert by a chocolate Lab named Franky. That court ruled the dog’s ability to detect marijuana growing inside a home in Miami by sniffing outside the house was unconstitutional.

Franky, who recently retired after seven years with the Miami-Dade Police Department, is responsible for the seizure of more than 2.5 tons of marijuana and $4.9 million in drug-contaminated money.

Government organizations around the country use thousands of dogs to sniff out illegal items, track criminals and search wreckage sites, according to the AP.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme court ruled police do not have to extensively document a drug-sniffing dog’s expertise to justify relying on the canine to search a vehicle.

The unanimous ruling overturned a Florida Supreme Court decision involving Aldo, a German shepherd. After the dog detected drugs in a pickup truck, a police officer searched the truck and found 200 pseudoephedrine pills and 8,000 matches, which are used to make methamphetamine. The Florida Supreme Court ruled police must compile detailed evidence of the dog’s reliability before probable cause to search the vehicle is established.